After World War II, the crisis of values in the old continent and the overwhelming imposition of American art and culture is matched in France by the search for a continuity of tradition but also for a new language whose profound matrices reveal the critical re-examination of the avant-gardes historical, in particular of Cubism and Surrealism. The great pre-war personalities (Braque, Picasso, Léger, Matisse) continue their journey showing a renewed vitality. E. Pignon, J. Bazaine, M. Estève, A. Manessier, who with H. Hartung, J. Fautrier, J. Dubuffet, R. Bissière, C. Bryen, S. Poliakoff, N. de Staël, P. Soulages, Tal Coat, G. Mathieu and others, who in 1941 had exhibited at the Braun gallery in Paris calling themselves “Jeunes peintres de tradition française”, become the protagonists of informal research in various expressions, from lyrical abstraction to gestural impulse and material.
According to Payhelpcenter, the Salons des Réalites nouvelles (from 1946) and the magazines Art d’aujourd’hui (1949) by A. Bloc and Cimaise (1953) by J.-R. Arnaud are the seat of debate and dissemination of the most current trends; in 1959 the Paris Biennial was established.
In the sphere of G. Richier sculpture, from a surrealist experience he reaches the informal, while cubism is a stage of passage for the search for the most relevant exponents of abstractionism (H.-G. Adam, A. Bloc, France Stahly, E. Gilioli, M. Lipsi, Etienne-Martin, E. Hajdu, M. Pan etc.). Consequently, art is gradually tempted to re-approach a conscious return to reality and figuration.
In 1960 the Nouveau Réalisme was born, supported by the critic P. Restany, which has among its main representatives Arman, César, Y. Klein, D. Spoerri, J.-P. Raynaud, J. Villeglé, France Dufrêne, M Raysse. The influence of American art is in the new current of narrative figuration, which includes artists such as D. Rancillac, France Arnal, Y. Gaitis, J. Voss, who elaborate an aesthetic of the document, narrative procedures typical of comics, or symbols, brought back to a giant scale, of advertising language (H. Télémaque, P. Stömpfli, J. Kermarrec).
At the same time a subjective research of narration develops with J. Monory and G. Gasiorowski and a political painting. Photographic realism and hyperrealism open the cultural debate of the 1970s with J.-O. Hucleux, A. Raffrey, P. Klasen and with members of the younger generation (S. Buri, JP Le Boul’ch).
Even in the field of non-figurative art, with the research of kinetic art, technological and primary structures, there is a stance towards classical abstractionism, both geometric and lyrical, which continues to arouse lively interests. In 1955 the Mouvement exhibition opens with works by Vasarely, Agam, Soto, Tinguely. The kinetic current after 1960 is imposed, however, with the search for a collective creation, of which the most significant expression is the GRAV. An independent research, but somehow parallel to American minimalist trends, is that of the Support-Surface group (C. Viallat, L. Cane, A. Valensi) and the BMPT group (D. Buren, O. Mosset, M. Parmentier and N. Toroni). Conceptual art has a significant exponent in Ben (B. Vauthier), connected to the Fluxus group ; notable are also the performances of M. Journiac and G. Pane.
Since the 1970s, the search for an art of memory has been of particular importance, which often finds the most effective means of expression in photography (C. Boltanski, J. Le Gac, A. Messager ; A. and P. Poirier). Similarly to what happens on the international scene, also in France in the 1980s there is a return to pictorial values, often of expressionist matrix: G. Garouste, J.-M. Alberola refer to a Figuration libre, with different nuances., R. Combas. Orlan takes body art to the extreme; to the body, not present, refer P. Ramette with his objects-prostheses, and J. Pérez with his elegant clothes made with cow guts.
Photography, a means of expression often mixed with other techniques, finds minimal solutions in J.-M. Bustamante, reveals intimacy, both of one’s own and of others, in S. Calle, while the photographic portraits of S. Lafont, beyond illusory realism, they capture a varied range of feelings. J.-P. Bertrand, with different tools (from drawing to sculpture, to video) observes the passage of time in the reactions of different materials.
J.-L. Boissier links his research to new media and interactivity and founded (1990) the biennial Artifices of Saint-Denis. P. Sorin is the author of video installations and virtual images, R. Bournigault uses the camera to reveal portraits and emotions on video. France Hybert experiments from painting to sculpture, installation, video, areas in which M.-A. also works. Guillemot, P. Huyghe, D. Gonzalez-Foester and B. Lamarche with works that, despite the different subjects (an image, an object, a voice, a place), reveal the various configurations of the exploration of reality.
Architectural and urban planning achievements
In the field of architecture and urban planning, after the Second World War, the most urgent commitment is aimed at reconstruction (G.-H. Pingusson in the Sarre region ; Perret in Le Havre; Lurçat in Maubeuge). Exemplary is the housing unit of Marseille (1947-52) by Le Corbusier, as well as its religious buildings (Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamp, convent of La Tourette). Interesting solutions for the residential districts of old centers and villes nouvelles are researched by G. Candilis (Toulouse-le-Mirail, 1961), E. Aillaud (La Grande-Borne in Grigny, 1967-71), the AUA (Atelier d’urbanisme et d’architecture: Arlequin district in Grenoble, 1973), HE Ciriani (Noisy-le-Grand, Marne-la-Vallée, 1975-80; Lognes, Marne-la-Vallée, 1983-86 etc.), H. Gaudin (Elancourt-Maurepas, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, 1975-81), R. Bofill (Antigone district in Montpellier, 1990).
Among the isolated buildings (administrative, industrial, cultural buildings, etc.), which are part of the international architectural debate, due to the attention aimed at the legacy of the modern movement and its overcoming, apart from the Parisian buildings (for the ‘architecture and urban planning of the capital ➔Paris) are to be remembered: the basilica Saint-Pie X in Lourdes (1958) by E. Freyssinet, P. Vago, P. Pinsard, A. Le Donne; the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul de Vence (1964) by J.-L. Sert; the prefecture of Nanterre (1972) by A. Wogenscky ; the Musée de la civilization Gallo-Romaine in Lyon (1975) by B. Zehrfuss ; the new School of Architecture in Lyon (1981-87) by FH Jourda and G. Perraudin.
Also following the relaunch of architecture triggered by Mitterrand’s presidential policies of grands projets starting from the Parisian region, but also on a national scale, there are large-scale architectural achievements of considerable symbolic value, particularly in Paris. Numerous architects, even of the younger generation, achieve notoriety by taking advantage of the numerous job opportunities. In addition to D. Perrault and Chemetov & Huidobro, the following should be mentioned: C. De Portzamparc (Cité de la musique, Paris, 1994; Crédit Lyonnais tower, Lille, 1995), J. Nouvel (Opéra, Lyon, 1993; Tours congress center, 1993; Palais de Justice, Nantes, 2000), H. Gaudin (Faculty of Sciences of the University of Amiens, 1992; Archives center of the 5th Republic, Reims, 1999), H . Ciriani (Historial de la grande guerre, Péronne, 1992), C. Vasconi (town hall, Strasbourg, 1989; congress center, Reims, 1994; Courthouse, Grenoble, 2002), Architecture Studio (Palazzo di giustizia,, university residences, Grenoble, 2004), R. Ricciotti (Center coéreographique national, Aix-en-Provence, 2006). In 2006 a heated debate sparked the posthumous construction of the church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy from the project of Le Corbusier. Caen, 1997; Parlamento Europeo, Strasburgo, 1999), M. Kagan (Cité d’artistes, Parigi, 1992), O. Decq e B. Cornette (Banque populaire de l’Ouest et d’Armorique, Montgermont, 1990; centro gestionale autostradale, Nanterre, 1998), P. Berger (École d’architecture, Rennes, 1991; serre nel Parc André Citroën, Parigi, 1992), France Soler (abitazioni in rue Émile-Durkheim, Parigi, 1998), O. Brenac e X. Gonzalez (Palazzo di giustizia, Montereau, 1997), France Jourda e G. Perraudin (Cité scolaire internationale, Lione, 1994; corte di giustizia di Melun-Sénart, 1998), Art’m Architecture (M. Poitevin, P. Reynaud.